FORT MILL, SC (WBTV) - A Fort Mill Marine is being honored by his community after he was killed during combat in Afghanistan on Thursday.

According to the Department of Defense, Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Dodds Dudley was killed Thursday, July 7, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province of Afghanistan.

He was assigned to Marine Air Group 26, 2nd Marine Air Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C.

WBTV's news partner CN2 News learned that the 29-year-old Marine was set to return home to his wife and three children in just two weeks.

He was in his sixth tour overseas with the U.S. Marines. Now his family is gathering to remember a career servicemen-- who loved nothing more than his country and to help others.

His mother, Robyn Dudley, says the Marines notified them of her son's death on Thursday evening. Friday morning, flags in Tega Cay were lowered in his honor.

His wife, Mary, and their three children, ages 13, 4 and 2, are stationed at Camp Lejune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where SSgt. Dudley was also a volunteer firefighter.

SSgt. Dudley was born in Rochester, N.Y. and moved to Tega Cay as a boy with his family, Mayor George Sheppard said.

The family later moved to Fort Mill where "T.J." played football in his freshman year before becoming involved in the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps and drill team. He also volunteered with the Tega Cay Rescue Squad as a teen.

He graduated from Fort Mill High School in 2000 and enlisted in the U.S. Marines at the age of 18.

Friends have taken to Facebook to honor the fallen Marine.

"The war in Afghanistan does not discriminate. It only affects the warriors and hero's that bare the personal sacrifice that choose to fight for freedom," one friend wrote. "The fight has claimed SSgt Thomas "Moose" Dudley. A great Marine, a true friend, a loving Father, and a devoted husband. May you rest in peace, God bless you Marine."

Another friend asked people to remember his wife and three children as they cope with SSgt. Dudley's death.

"You were an amazing father, brother, fireman, friend, Marine. You will always be remembered and never forgotten, you are a true hero," the friend wrote. "Please keep Mary and her kids and the Dudley family in your thought and prayers during this tragic time."

His dedication to his country was an inspiration to others; his younger sister recently signed on with the Navy and his younger brother following in his footsteps as a Marine.

The mayors of both Fort Mill and Tega Cay have expressed their condolences to the Dudley family and are planning memorials to honor the Marine, including a brick in the new Veterans Park.

His body is scheduled to arrive back in the United States on Saturday. While his funeral plans were not finalized as of Friday night, his wife says she wants to bury him in Fort Mill.

Governor Nikki Haley is expected to order flags to be flown at half staff in honor of Staff Sergeant T.J. Dudley.

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